(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

I was born in the heat of summer but fall—and especially October—is when I most feel at home. I like to think it’s the annual reminder of the day I married my life partner or the explosion of autumnal colors or the cool nights or the rhythm of routine that returns in the fall, but maybe it’s because October is the month when I didn’t die—the month when I was reborn.

I have no memories of what happened that first October of my life—just the subjective tales my mother told me. For most of my life I’d tell you these things that happened to me didn’t matter. Well, other than that ugly long scar on my belly that might have ruined my bikini days if the coloring hadn’t become my own thanks to being only four months younger than I was.

Road Trip 1962

Road Trip 1962

My mother’s stories took on an almost biblical quality. While we trekked across deserts and mountains for what was supposed to be a relaxing autumnal trip to and from the Promised Land of Oregon, little of what I ate stayed with me. Upon our return, it became obvious that travel alone could not explain why I grew so weak. For three days and nights Mom rocked me in her arms, my pharmacist father keeping me hydrated as best he knew. The myth of my stoicism at the time is large but I have no way of proving this wasn’t some tale my mom told herself so she could will me into becoming someone who would not only grow up but also grow up strong and healthy.

That I did, but my near-resurrection from being an inch close to death could not have happened in an earlier era. I don’t remember being whisked from my mother’s arms to an uncertain outcome. In fact, my distance from this major event in my life kept me from realizing, until a few years ago, that I never told doctors I’m missing my appendix, something surgeons removed while they were inside removing the gangrene. For years I’ve told myself that since all that happened to pre-memory Me, it didn’t really matter except for how it affected my parents and how they treated me.

Me, before surgery

Me, before surgery

Wasn’t really until muscle imbalances brought about painful back and hip difficulties that I started looking for more subtle explanations. The more I worked with my yoga instructor and massage therapist, the more I realized that abdominal pain and surgery as well as being restrained or needing breathing help during recovery would have changed how I moved and developed—whether I experienced delayed development or my development modified in other ways to accommodate my unique situation.

Yet, how could I have believed that only my body suffered from those days? Surely there is something primal to fears of pain and mortality in addition to that of being separated from our first caregivers.

Whatever the little infant I was suffered that first October of my life, she also was born again. I can’t tell you the exact date of that rebirth but somehow I think my body knows that October is when it got to start again—for good.

All I know is that whenever the earth starts readying itself for rest, that’s when I feel most renewed and ready for growth.

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

(c) 2013 Trina Lambert

To my life partner Sherman on our 27th anniversary: life is a puzzle—both the big pieces and the small pieces. So often it’s hard to figure out which direction to turn the pieces to make everything fit. What I don’t question is that turning to you was the piece that fit right from the start.

Though we are no longer those starry-eyed twenty-somethings who thought that just to be by each other’s side would change the bad to good, 27 years older and wiser, we still know that being together through the bad is always good.

The good is knowing that come what may we are a team—you have my back and I have yours—including those times when we lie together at night back-to-back, not because we are mad at one another but because your back against mine and mine against yours soothes the aches brought on by lives lived in motion—together and apart. Trekking mountain paths, gliding down snowy white slopes, walking our excitable dogs—we take to trails for renewal, discovery, and space to converse without so much intrusion from the everyday in our lives.

But another big piece of our lives is the constant welcome intrusion of laughter—both when appropriate and when not so appropriate. Even now I know you are laughing because I am not respecting the metaphor at all. Are you the puzzle piece? Is life together full of puzzle pieces? Is Life itself the puzzle? Can we be both puzzle pieces and the people who put together the puzzle?

I can’t even begin to puzzle out where this puzzle metaphor is going, but know that there is no puzzle to me about your being the one for me.

Got that? If anyone can get that, it will be you–because you are the one who gets the me that puzzles everyone else.

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

Keep me as the apple of your eye . . . Psalm 17:5a (NIV)

The minister at our church years ago loved that verse. However, when he would preach on the verse, he talked about how his father was so encouraging that he never made him feel as if he disappointed him. As a parent who did not do such a good job expressing my lack of disappointment toward my own apples of my eye, I felt sad when he said that, even if I knew that maybe his father was the excessively (and over-the-top) good parent on the good cop/bad cop spectrum in his family or that maybe he was a better kid than most of us are. I mean, I disappointed my parents, too. But, still, my kids really are the apples of my eye—even when I disappoint them as a parent and even if they sometimes disappoint me. That people we love disappoint us is normal, but it should be just as normal that we see those whom we love as the apples of our eyes, even if they/we are not engineered to perfection.

This verse takes on more meaning when not taken in the context of these modern times when most of us can get apples during any season, no matter where we live. As a child, I didn’t understand my mother’s obsession with what I considered the sour fruits of her youth: chokecherries, plums, and apricots. I couldn’t even begin to comprehend the whys behind stories of how an orange was one of the greatest treats a prairie kid could receive in a Christmas stocking. I thought I knew fruit—until I ate a locally grown apple in Spain. Now that was an apple I will never forget—and most likely the type of apple King David would have referenced in the Bible. A rare, sweet, crunchy treat in a mostly desert region during a time when plants only grew in season—if that year’s conditions supported growth—was a delight.

Every child deserves to have parents who delight in him or her, at least some of the time. And maybe it’s when we are most unlovable and yet our parents keep showing love to us—through their actions—that we most understand just how sweet we are to them. When we wake them in the night with our nightmares or all the messy signs of a sudden illness. When we do not do our chores or homework as asked. When we sass them as only adolescents seeking independence can. When our own adult decisions come to roost.

Parental love is only a shallow emotion if it doesn’t involve the hard work of being there with consistent presence and actions—whether or not we children are bright and shiny apples in the moment or seemingly rotten to the core. This day-in/day-out commitment is what teaches us that we are the apples in our parents’ eyes.

Our minister wasn’t trying to tell me I was a bad parent for seeing the soft spots in the apples—he wanted me to know just how much God loved me, even when I wasn’t being a particularly good apple. God doesn’t walk away from his apples—and neither should we.

But when parents do walk away from their own apples, thank God (yes, really!) that there are others who walk in to tend the orchard—especially when older parents have to remain disappointed in their own apple that has fallen far from their trees, yet still move in to do God’s work to make certain their grandchildren feel like the apples of someone’s eyes.

Bless those little ones who have not always been treated as the apples of their natural parents’ eyes and keep them in the presence of those who know just how precious they are. Every child deserves to be the apple of someone’s eye.

(c) 2015 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2015 Sherman Lambert

Last night’s nightmare that woke me was about . . . raccoons? I guess Disney didn’t succeed after all in teaching me that those critters were adorable—sorry, Pocahontas, but your little masked sidekick is not welcome in my dreams—or my yard!

Raccoons are definitely roaming our neighborhood at night. Not sure if they’ve made it into our back yard or not, but in my dream they were wandering around just about everywhere back there. Little ones, medium-sized ones, big ones—on the walls of the house, on the picnic table, on the ground—and their beady little eyes gleamed in the dark of night as I tried to keep them from approaching me.

Dreammoods.com says: (t)o see a raccoon in your dream signifies deceit and thievery. You are not being completely honest in some situation. Alternatively, the dream suggests that you are hiding something. You are keeping a secret.

Right—it’s all about me, not the possibility that raccoons could figure out how to access our costly stash of premium dog food, harm our dogs, and/or bite us. I’m being honest when I say I neither want our dogs to be hurt or require expensive surgeries nor do I want to go through that series of rabies shots in my ample mid-section, thank you very much. Plus, we just bought two 26-pound bags of food for our dogs and our daughter got 15 pounds for her pup.

I’m not keeping a secret—I’m just paranoid. However, as my husband likes to say, just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. They, in this case, relates to those critters I saw slinking away in the neighbors’ bushes or the guy who watched us from the nearby sewer drain as we walked our dogs. None has tried to get me—that I know of—so far.

When I woke in the dark of night, I felt relieved to find myself in bed and not outside my house. Not saying that I was rattled or anything, but after I grabbed a sip of water from the glass I keep for that purpose in the kitchen, I set it down on the edge of the counter and heard it spill over the counter before it fell to the floor. Of course, I poured that water right into my pillbox with the huge (and expensive) supplements I take daily. Despite the hour, I threw on the light in order to save my supplements and clean as best I could, trying not to wake myself up more than I already was, thanks to the pounding of my heart and my overactive imagination.

Were there eyes glowing outside my darkened windows, beckoning me to test out my dream? Don’t know and didn’t look—just got myself back under the covers where I tried really hard not to think of those rabies shots while praying my next dreams would be raccoon-free—which I think they were.

If I keep this kind of thinking up, I’ll be screaming if someone asks me to watch Pocahontas. Sadly, it is no secret that the power of suggestion works a little bit too easily for me. For this reason, I no longer watch the news and horror movies. And now, Disney, it seems.

If you want me, I’ll just be hiding under my blankets.

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

Conflict is inevitable, but combat is not. (Max Lucado)

I believe that babies arrive in this world good. And, yet I also believe in the concept of original sin—as in babies show up self-focused because that’s what’s developmentally appropriate for a new creature who must figure out how to stay alive and well in the outside world. A baby isn’t worried about the self-preservation of anyone else yet—and that makes sense. To them it really is all about them when they first arrive. Babies don’t care if parents want to sleep or eat or whatever. They want what they want (need?) right now—no conflict in their minds.

However, as we grow, we begin to understand that others matter, too. But, boy is it hard sometimes to get ourselves to do for others and/or to be aware enough to realize that sometimes what might be right for us isn’t necessarily right for others or what they want. How we resolve those conflicts between our desires and those of others is really, really tough. Talk about conflicted, right?

I grew up in a home where my father tended to think my mother would want what he wanted, even if she expressed otherwise—which to be fair to him, she did not do often enough. By the time she started stating more of what she thought—after over twenty-five years of marriage—he didn’t really hear her. Sure she said she didn’t want to go to the football game, but who doesn’t want to go to the football game? Of course she would be tired from staying at the cast party but isn’t everyone tired?

I confess I am more like my father than my mother. As much as I try to figure out what others might want, sometimes I’m really into what I want. If there is only one chocolate left in the cabinet, am I going to save it for my husband (who also loves chocolate) or eat it? I’m fairly certain I fall more on the selfish line with that sort of thing, but I try to be a person who hears when someone expresses a direct request. (So, Sherman, if you’re reading, give me some direction on this chocolate thing!)

And sometimes we have to learn the lesson of awareness of others the hard way—by being told when we’ve been steamrolling over someone else. I am still embarrassed that my friend/employee had to tell me that you don’t joke about firing someone. Talk about insensitive—pointing out power differences and making light of someone else’s livelihood. I blush every time I think of that. But I changed. Thank goodness she was willing to say something to me and yet still remain my friend. She likely protected me from alienating others in my life in my days since then.

Then I also remember times I have stated my boundaries and/or my reasoning behind any boundary, but not felt heard. The other person continued to do what I asked him/her not to do or flat-out told me he/she wouldn’t change just because I wanted that change. I don’t want to be like my mother with my father and leave others guessing as to what I really think, but if the response I receive is not sufficient for my self-preservation, I either keep others at a distance or no longer invite them in my circle at all.

Some behaviors are considered universally objectionable and others are personally objectionable. If my request seems unreasonable to you, then maybe we have to agree to disagree.

Truth? I hate conflict—I want to get along with everyone and believe the best of everyone. But that is as unrealistic as thinking that those who don’t agree with me are horrible people from the get-go. We are all individuals who are likely to think differently in many ways from one another. Conflict is inevitable but there is some choice as to how we handle that conflict together and how often we are in conflict.

Back to that chocolate thing—I’m certain my husband probably recognizes that I’m a bigger boundary encroacher than he is. However, he is the epitome of that still waters running deep expression. If a boundary matters to him, it has mattered to him for a long time and when he finally mentions it, he’s going to mean it. Unlike my father, though, I think I realize that maybe that also means I’m going to have to listen harder and consider what I wasn’t hearing before.

But when someone else is bringing that spirit of conflict into our home, we are united in our desire to reduce that conflict’s effect on us. While we believe that living in the midst of constant conflict is a hard way to live, we especially stand firm in the belief that engaging in constant conflict is no way to treat people in your inner circle. Conflict itself is not a sin, but just part of living in this world and in relationship with others. Nonetheless, when it happens too often, it’s time to ask why.

(c) 2015 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2015 Christiana Lambert

Yes, I’m talking to you, too.

What’s up with drivers and stop signs these days? When did stop signs become suggestions for a majority of drivers? I would like to say I’m exaggerating but that only applies if I just happen to have the bad luck of being around the only people not stopping. Lately I am only seeing about one in 10 fully stopping, with a few more doing the rolling stop known as a California stop here. (Is that a regional prejudice or is that what they’re called in California, too?)

At first I thought it was just my little street. I happen to live on what appears to be a fairly randomly-designated one-way street. It’s not unusual to see Driver’s Ed students being taught about driving on one-ways on this street. With just one stop required in the whole six-block one-way section and two lanes, drivers can often pick up the speed way beyond posted limits—and that includes our law enforcement officers. And, trust me, many do pick up the speed. I’ve even seen what can qualify as racing in those two lanes at 3:00 p.m.—which is not only suspiciously close to the time the local high school lets out but also a time for frequent pedestrian traffic. (Side note: I saw it again today between when I wrote this sentence and when I posted this on the blog.)

But either I’m one of the few people who knows this about our street or else all those drivers who don’t even slow down at the stop signs on the cross street are considerably more optimistic about the odds of meeting traffic than I am.

However, I’ve been checking out other routes and have concluded that many drivers really aren’t stopping for stop signs these days. It’s not just our little corner on the world with this problem.

I get the impression many drivers think they know the traffic patterns better than the traffic engineers and city planners. If no one is coming, why not go? Well, let’s say we skip over the fact that not stopping at a stop sign is illegal—I also do not see that many of these non-stoppers are even looking for other types of traffic either. They just want to go. Not cool—take your turn, especially when you’re threatening someone else’s safety. My husband rides a bicycle, he and my daughter trade off riding our motor scooter, she and I walk our dogs daily, and I like to run. I resent your thinking that our lives don’t matter as much as your right to shave off a few seconds from your drive. If you don’t want to stop, then take a route where traffic doesn’t have to stop as often.

I grew up in a town with many uncontrolled intersections—which means every single intersection requires a driver to slow down (or not, of course) to determine who has the right-of-way and if it’s safe to proceed. With that kind of traffic planning, you either have to drive a lot slower than you could, due to all that slowing down at each intersection, or you take your chances driving through the intersection and hoping the other driver is watching in case you’re not. Trust me, this is neither a more efficient nor safer way to drive. You think driving is stressful now with people not stopping at marked stop signs, try driving in a place where everyone is relying on the other drivers to make sound decisions when the rules aren’t nearly so well-defined.

Yeah, you, I’m talking to you. Stop at that stop sign if you have one—even if you think no one is coming. You could be wrong, you know. I really don’t want to be that other person—pedestrian or in a car—who is in the right but somehow demonstrates to you that you were dead wrong.

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

Becoming a mother is so different from the process of un-becoming that full-time, around-the-clock mother you became. One day you’re this individual person just vaguely aware of what it’s going to mean when that purely hypothetical (to your own way of living anyway) child leaves your womb and the next day you are IN CHARGE—of EVERYTHING. This now real world child is depending on you to feed it and keep it safe and for you to figure out what it’s trying to communicate in its nonverbal state. And so you muddle along being in charge, even though this separate being is not you and not even yours in the grand scheme of things.

Oh yes, your children are not your children and they are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing itself (paraphrasing Kahlil Gibran), but at first you’re the one who must try to figure out what it is they might possibly need and want. But after a while you were more than happy to try to hand over some of those decisions—because it’s exhausting enough figuring out what you need and want, let alone what someone else needs and wants—until you tried. When “do you want juice or milk?” became a little game of “I want whatever I did not tell you I wanted”, you realized this task of handing off choices was a lot harder than it sounded. If they said they wanted juice, you found out pretty darn quickly that they were likely going to scream for milk when you handed them that juice.

But still, as a parent you are pretty much required to make a lot decisions for many years for these little people who grow into big people. There’s always a tension between helping them too much and helping them too little, no matter the age.

I find myself in the awkward position of being done with that hands-on mothering phase while still living in the same home as my now-adult children. I want to say “it’s the economy, stupid”—but economy or not, that’s a fairly common experience for many of us right now. The truth is they can choose their own milk or juice now, but sometimes I mistake a statement for a request for help and rush in as if it’s up to me to solve the problem.

But it’s not. I just need to stop. It’s not my job to figure out if a grown person wants a solution and I should remember that I probably have little idea what someone who isn’t me really wants or needs.

Besides, just as I am un-becoming my always-on-the-clock motherhood role, my kids are settling into what it means to be IN CHARGE of themselves—and that means figuring out if they want juice or milk—or bourbon for that matter—and doing whatever it takes to make that happen.

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

Still trying to erase some of the pictures I’ve viewed over the past few weeks, but so far to no avail. When I agreed to proofread a biology textbook, I forgot about my aversion to certain kinds of critters—including the kinds I can’t see and especially those that are always looking for a good host or hostess. I should be thankful I only saw a scorpion and a salamander in my dream, right? Yes, in my house I am known as Princess Mia—a reference to Meg Cabot’s Princess Diaries series and how Mia is always certain she has whatever disease she is studying in her science classes.

Perhaps this ability to think too much about living organisms is the real reason I avoided studying science like the plague. Yes, that statement is not only a cliché but also another reminder that there is yet another reason for me to panic—thanks to wet conditions, the plague is alive and well and thriving in local critters—and has killed two people so far here in Colorado. This year we’ve also got rabies, tularemia, and West Nile disease. Don’t forget Hantavirus either. Not only has our state reported three fatalities but I also saw a mouse in my house this very day. We’re all going to DIE . . . and if not from that mouse, then from some random bear and her very hungry cubs who can’t find enough chokecherries thanks to the bad timing of the most recent fall and spring freezes.

And for certain I’m never going to walk barefoot again in my back yard. I have dogs, for goodness’ sake, and who knows what all might be living inside them. And all the dust bunnies inside the house that I considered annoying but harmless are probably just full of living and breathing and thriving dust mites?

After reading all those chapters filled with pictures of microorganisms, parasites (that can grow how long?), reptiles, and insects, I was almost relieved to see those photos of the fetal pigs. Almost—but I did concede to proofing that chapter after I ate my dinner. Because uncooked pigs can host what? Don’t get me started, right? And the human chapters were the best because these chapters were just overviews of properly functioning systems. After what I’d seen in previous chapters, a little drawing detailing the human reproductive system was almost nothing on my personal gross-out scale.

I need to get back to experiencing the world in my usual more-ethereal way—one where I am in the world but not of the world too much. Or at least when I get to choose to see what I want to see and to ignore what I most certainly do not want to see. Would be so much easier if I hadn’t just spotted that mouse this morning—oh Lord, save me from an active and informed imagination. Eek—it’s time for gloves and masks and disinfectant—just picture that.

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

(c) 2015 Trina Lambert

My dad’s parents lived well up until their last few years and they lived long—both until 92. I didn’t know how lucky I was to have grandparents who were active and independent—even into my late 20s—before old age finally caught up with them. Before that they made annual car trips halfway across the country to visit their relatives while also being able to drive themselves to watch our sporting events or to come stay with us. Granddad didn’t retire for the final (his third) time until he was in his mid-80s.

Although their own family was small—just my dad and our family—they had a large circle of extended family members and old friends who they always made sure to see. Their best times in old age were spent visiting with these people—something I thought was B-O-R-I-N-G. What I didn’t see then was how they got together with those in their circle, even during hard times. They loved to see new babies or talk about good times, but where they shone was visiting people in hospitals and nursing homes and attending funerals.

I have never been one of those people who walks into a nursing home at ease—though it breaks my heart that so many people are living in bodies and minds that are failing them, I am also afraid of approaching and interacting with them—as if somehow it’s all about me and my discomfort and not theirs. This despite the fact my grandparents brought me to visit in a nursing home often in my younger years because one of their (our) relatives lived there much of her long life after an early head injury. Thanks to them I at least understood that old age didn’t always look like the independence Granddad and Grandma maintained—and I witnessed what faithful commitment to loved ones through hard times looked like.

When my grandmother finally ended up in such a place in the final two years of her life, it was hard for me to see her that way in that space. I didn’t have to face my discomfort too often because I lived far away busy raising toddler twins, but in those years while my grandma declined, my father kept up the good visiting example set before him by his parents.

Later as my own mom descended deep into Alzheimer’s, I moved her into memory care. I had to learn to override my discomfort in order to visit her most days, but I did. And when you visit someone in memory care, you visit many other people beside your own loved one. I wouldn’t say I grew relaxed, but I could reach out to the other (mostly) women who I met there—people who I could see as individuals hanging onto who they were by a slim thread and people who needed to know they were not alone in whatever scary lack of understanding their own minds exhibited. Like my grandparents and father before me, I held hands and talked.

Now, four years since my mom has been gone, we are back to visiting my husband’s mother. A fracture of the femur and subsequent hip surgery sent her to a physical rehabilitation center, but it is an inability of her mind to absorb all the instructions that has finally sent her into a skilled nursing center—aka nursing home—to see if she can recover enough to walk back into her home. Once again we are confronting the frightening realities of people whose bodies and/or minds do not work as they should—including hers. But, still, we hold hands and talk.

My grandparents taught me how to do this—I don’t know if they were ever afraid or sad or tired of going when they went to see people, but they just went and visited. That’s what they did. I had no idea how brave they were to do so year after year for so many people and to keep visiting until they visited one last time for the final goodbye.

Visiting someone in a care facility is hard for me but I have to remind myself how much harder it has to be to be a person at the mercy of failing bodily systems away from my home and those whom I love. God bless the workers who care for our loved ones in our absence, but may we never forget how much power there is in spending our own time with those loved ones who long for who and how they once were and how we can give them a connection to the lives they have led outside their confinement.

I used to think my grandparents’ use of the word visiting spelled B-O-R-I-N-G, but now I know it spelled L-O-V-E. Now, that was living well.

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

Let’s talk about convictions. Just because someone has a conviction different from yours does not mean that person is devious. And just because someone hears evidence in a different way than you do does not mean there is an agenda—personal or larger.

As citizens we are called to serve on juries as individuals and to follow our individual consciences to work for a group decision. There are reasons juries are composed of six or 12 people—individual consciences must work together to agree or to admit that there will be no agreement. Decisions are not based on the court of only, say Trina, or you on a jury—or of public opinion or of family members of either victims or perpetrators. The collective body of jury members is called to listen to the instructions and to follow those instructions based on the facts presented in a trial—and for no single juror to let personal emotions—or those of anyone else—sway how to apply the facts within the parameters of the instructions. You know that’s a tough job if you’ve ever been called to serve—especially if in your heart you believe the accused deserves to rot in Hell.

But your job as a juror isn’t to give a perpetrator what he or she deserves—your job is to make your decisions based on the evidence and to uphold the laws of the People.

I feel badly that a man I believe was a sexual predator walked because I did not think his actions had been proved beyond a reasonable doubt. I felt the man was guilty the first time I set eyes on him, but that’s not how our justice system works—and that’s a good thing because I, myself, don’t want to be convicted of a crime based on others’ gut feelings. In a perfect world the facts would have been available so that man would pay for his deeds, but imperfect justice is often served because we live in an imperfect world.

Just as it’s easy to declare judgment on the actions of an accused criminal, it’s also easy to think you can judge the actions of a juror who made a decision you abhor. You really need to consider that this person applied the instructions to the evidence and still came up with a different response than other jurors did—or than you would have in their shoes.

Isn’t it funny that we use the word conviction to describe both the holding of a firm belief and the court action for declaring an individual guilty of a crime and that somehow one conviction can get in the way of the conviction preferred by the majority? And yet that’s exactly part of the whys behind the checks and balances designed into the judicial system—because some decisions are too big for majority rule.

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